O’Brien: Belleville Althoff ends Lincoln-Way West’s run, wins 3A state title

SHARE O’Brien: Belleville Althoff ends Lincoln-Way West’s run, wins 3A state title

PEORIA — Lincoln-Way West’s unlikely run to the Class 3A state championship game was fueled by teamwork, defense and the strong, effective play of junior Marco Pettinato.

The 6-1 point guard found a way to lead the Warriors past three teams they weren’t supposed to beat: Hillcrest, Morgan Park and Peoria Manual.

Then he ran into Belleville Althoff’s Jordan Goodwin, who might be the top player in the state. Goodwin and the Crusaders dominated Lincoln-Way West 62-37 to win the Class 3A state title.

“It was definitely the best matchup I’ve faced all year, by far,” Pettinato said. “He’s pretty much me in a nutshell, just a little bit more athletic and two inches taller. He did a good job. He forced me into a couple mistakes. He’s a great player and you have to respect that.”

“I think I got in [Pettinato’s] head a little bit,” Goodwin said.

Pettinato scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds. Senior Cameron Gavin had 10 points and six rebounds.

“[Pettinato] has a great spin move,” Althoff coach Greg Leib said. “And when he spins he gets some separation. [With Goodwin’s size] that separation wasn’t there.”

The Warriors (22-10) started well, but trailed by 12 at the half. The Crusaders (32-2) dominated the final two quarters. They didn’t allow Lincoln-Way West to score a single field goal in one seven-minute stretch.

“We were hitting some shots early,” Lincoln-Way West senior Jon Marotta said. “Then once they started hitting theirs I think our confidence went down a little bit and it just kind of got to us.”

Althoff completely dominated the boards, out-rebounding the Warriors 44-19.

“It’s a disappointing way to end what’s been one of the greatest runs that I’ve been a part of as a head coach,” Lincoln-Way West coach Brian Flaherty said. “I can’t thank the seniors enough for what they’ve given the past two years. This game was a little bit of a disappointment, but it doesn’t diminish what we’ve been able to accomplish the past few weeks.”

Goodwin finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals. He shot 8-for-14 from the field.

Goodwin was the breakout sensation of last season’s state finals when the Crusaders lost to St. Joseph in the Class 3A title game. They spent the entire season laser-focused on winning the title this year. Althoff’s only loses came to Highland (early in the season when most of the team was still returning from playing football) and to Chaminade, Mo., which features Jayson Tatum, the top player in the country.

Lincoln-Way West is the first Lincoln-Way school to ever play for a state basketball team and the first Joliet-area team to play for a state title since Providence in 1979.

“I’m incredibly proud of this group,” Flaherty said. “To put together they run they did, it’s a credit to the kids. They are good players and high character kids. They wanted this, they wanted to play in games like this. Coaching these guys has been probably the easiest thing that I have done, they are enjoyable. They are competitive kids and they take to coaching well. It’s been nothing but a treat coaching them.”

UIC recruit Tarkus Ferguson, a junior, scored 11 and grabbed 11 rebounds and CJ Coldon and Marvin Bateman each added eight points.

The IHSA’s success factor rule will move Althoff up to Class 4A next season. Goodwin, Ferguson and several other key players return. They weren’t worried about the bump up in class.

“I think we’re the best team in the state,” Goodwin said. “We could beat anyone in [Class 4A].

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